It’s kind of fascinating to follow the discussion about the scheduling of the president’s appearance before a Joint Session of Congress on Twitter. Think about this. The president finally did something really aggressive and partisan by requesting an audience with Congress at the exact moment of an already-scheduled Republican debate. A lot of progressives cheered. ‘Yay, the president is really sticking it to the Republicans and playing hardball.’
So, what happened? Speaker Boehner made up some procedural and security-related excuses and asked that the president appear the next day, during the first NFL game of the season. The president can’t force Congress to give him an audience because it requires a Joint Resolution of both branches of Congress. So, he had to back down. It makes him look weak.
This is something I’ve tried to explain repeatedly over the last two years. Asking for something that can be easily denied does not make you look strong. It doesn’t advance any cause. It just makes you look helpless and ineffectual. This is a huge part of the Republicans’ strategy. The president forgot that here and led with his chin.
I’m glad that he’s going to speak to Congress and lay out a jobs program. My concern is that they’ll simply say ‘no’ and make him look weak and ineffectual again. But you have to show some fight, too. You have to create some contrast. And you have to make your opponents show their cards to the American people.
In any case, when your opponents have the power to thwart you, you have to pick your battles carefully. Trying to step on the Republicans’ debate was a straightforward dick move, and the GOP broke all historical precedent by showing massive disrespect to the office of the president in retaliation. I know there is a debate over whether Boehner agreed to the date before he disagreed with it, but you can chalk that up to Boehner being an incompetent idiot.